I wrote this for today’s Irish Times magazine, with the sea salt and sea salt ice cream recipes:
WHEN IT COMES to summer, at least in memory, the days are sunny, lazy and worry-free. This year, we have already had so many sunny days that it feels like a real summer, and it’s triggering memories that have been dormant these past few years. There’s the smell of pollen, cut grass and barbecue smoke on clothes, the tired buzz of insects overwhelmed by abundance, music outdoors, ripples of contented laughter, the slipperiness of suntan lotion, the heat of the skin after a day at the beach, and the softness of truly ripe fruit. The senses awaken.
Of summer tastes, the first that comes to my mind is salt. It’s the salt of sweat, but even more so the salt of the sea; salt dried on the lips and flavouring everything consumed post-beach. We are lucky here in Ireland that the sea is never too far away that we can’t reach it when a day off coincides with sunshine. I am lucky living in Dingle, when even on a busy day I can escape to Bín Bán or Doonshean for a quick, cold dip and return to work within the hour, revived, with feet sandy in my shoes and a thin shield of salt on my skin.
Salt, in moderation, is not only tasty, but it is a vital component of our bodies. We need it to regulate our fluid content, especially in summer, and perhaps that’s what makes salt a slightly primeval experience. John F Kennedy, at the America Cup race in 1962, said: “All of us have, in our veins, the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea – whether it is to sail or to watch it – we are going back from whence we came.”
I find it strange that most of us give salt so little thought, especially since it is a staple of the kitchen. It’s so varied, and so easy to make if you have access to the sea. Try it. When you’re leaving the beach this summer, fill up your empty water bottles with sea water after you pack away your towels, trowels and that weighty tome you’ve put off reading all year. A litre of seawater should make 40 grams of salt. You’ll find that it’s more complex and more interesting in flavour than anything you can buy in a shop. It will give you a lingering taste of your holiday and a great conversation piece at a dinner party.